Program offers help for child support payers
FARMINGTON – In an effort to try to help people who struggle to or simply don't pay child support, a new program offers hope to both the involved parents and the courts that oversee their cases.
The Education 4 Employment, or E4E, program, is a new joint venture between the Eleventh Judicial District Court and San Juan College. It aims to cut down on the number of cases of unpaid child support by connecting parents with advisers who can help them find better jobs and ultimately make their child support payments affordable.
A free informational meeting on the program will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Farmington District Court.
Cindy Gray — domestic hearing commissioner for the court who hears evidence and makes recommendations on child support cases at the court — will lead Tuesday's meeting. Gray said the program was spurred by frustration over the limited responses the court had to remedy the problem of people failing to pay child support.
"What is an effective way to get that person to pay child support? You can be punitive. I have no problem with that," Gray said. "But, I thought, there has got to be something else."
Last year, Gray and college officials began discussions that led to the program.
"Our goal is to provide sufficient education for noncustodial parents who need to pay child support," Gray said. "I've found that frequently you might have someone who was willing to pay their child support, but they just didn't have the education to get a job."
But Gray said the program likely will not take someone who is paying child support and who simply wants to go back to school.
Factors her team will look at include whether an individual is unemployed or underemployed and whether the person has a criminal background that might be a barrier to steady employment. Ultimately, Gray said her team will evaluate whether further education will help the individual find a job that will lead to a participant's ability to regularly pay child support.
If an applicant is approved, Gray sends the application to Christy Ferrato, Advising and Counseling Center director at the college, who schedules an initial evaluation. If Ferrato thinks the applicant is a good fit, she sends a recommendation back to Gray, who will also consider input from the care-giving parent who is not receiving child support.
If approved, the participant still is accountable for paying child support.
"We may suspend enforcement, so they will not be held in contempt, have their (driver's) license suspended or be arrested on a warrant," Gray said.
Gray said the participant can sign up for any educational program, but she wants participants to look at what programs the college suggests for them, including technical degrees, certificates and two-year programs.
"They need to be able to pick a degree or certificate program that will work in this area, that will work with them, that will result in employment," Gray said. "And I need to be sold on that."
The program does not provide any financial assistance to participants, but they may qualify for federal or state assistance, an option they can explore with college aid specialists.
Ferrato said the college is eager to help.
"If I can just get a sit-down conversation with them, they see that I'm here to work for them," Ferrato said. " We're just getting (E4E) off the ground. That is the end goal, to get them into a job. But we're trying to get the word out."
James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621. Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.
If you go
What: E4E program informational clinic
Where: Farmington District Court, 851 Andrea Drive in Farmington
When: 4 p.m. Tuesday
More info: Call 505-326-2256